Caroline Beltz-Hosek


First Unitarian Church of Rochester, 1988

Before the sermon begins, I puke
blood in a cramped hallway & leave without

cleaning up the mess.

What grace—

Am I Eve? Biblical pariah,

my girl body disturbs me: pink

collection plate. Sweat gathers

in hairless armpits, oocytes stir yet

their travel will, for another twenty years, produce

only cyclical absence.

Nascent breasts under loose tops,

I learn my empty slough is something

to hide in bathroom stalls, feminine

pad expel, expelled to a backpack or purse.

I learn to exaggerate the pain when I want to

skip gym class. Like all the Raggedy Anns.

What does my teacher—without knowing—conceal

& predict when he quickly averts his eyes?

He gives me sweaty permission

to read alone in the nurse’s office: thin membrane

curtain, foldaway clot, tart red

juice in a Styrofoam cup.

Mother of all my living, my living all

my mother, I was a chiasmus from the start

& go two months in utero until she’s onto

me. Her ovum is my ovum is my twin

daughters, delicate split moon,

who do not yet know their bodies are ritual gardens,

who do not yet know its clockwork catch & release,

who do not yet know God

is gone too soon from this place.

What wisdom is there in shedding?

Caroline Beltz-Hosek received her M.A. in Poetry from SUNY Brockport. A former assistant editor at Penguin Putnam, she has taught creative writing and literature at SUNY Geneseo since 2006. Her poems have been published in The Fourth River and Minetta Review. Additionally, she was awarded a 2018 Incentive Grant from the Geneseo Foundation for “The Long Diminishing Parade,” a poetry collection based in part on her maternal ancestors, which explores topics of motherhood, mental illness, alienation and the immigrant experience, and the role that place—real and imagined, personal and historical—plays in shaping identity and creative expression.